Scott McLaughlin has declared Shell V-Power Racing team-mate Fabian Coulthard a championship rival following his strong start to the 2019 campaign.
Coulthard has emerged as McLaughlin’s closest title challenger after 10 races with his points haul boosted by a run of three second place finishes and a victory from the last four races.
Last Sunday saw Coulthard end a winless streak that had stretched back to Winton last May with victory in Race 10 at Phillip Island that saw the Ford team score its fourth one-two of the season.
It arrives following a difficult 2018 for Coulthard that saw the New Zealander teamed with a new engineer (Mark Fenning) while battling a car that didn’t suit his style.
With Coulthard now fighting back at the sharp end, reigning champion McLaughlin sees his opposite number as a serious championship rival.
“He’s right there. He’s in the same equipment, he’s got the same opportunities I have,” said McLaughlin when asked if Coulthard was his biggest title threat.
“When the team’s doing a good job and the pit stops are great, there’s opportunity for both of us to win races.
“I think you’ve just got to look at the start going into Turn 1 (at Phillip Island) we both wanted that first place and to lead and get that track position, because that’s what it was.
“When he came out on track in front of me and I was like ‘ah rats’, but anyway, that’s just how it is.
“You’ve got to get on with it and it’s a good rivalry between the two team-mates.
“Not only does it spur me and Fabs on and make us better, it makes the team better and the want for each car to get a one-two, it’s just a cool feeling.
“I guess in the long term, absolutely, Fabs is right there for the championship.”
Coulthard, sitting 124 point adrift of McLaughlin, was clearly pleased to chalk up a victory over his team-mate but is keeping his championship aspirations under wraps.
“Any time you win is awesome. He’s a class act and you know you’re doing things right if you get ahead him (McLaughlin),” said Coulthard.
“We’ve got a long way to go, the season finishes in November, a long way to go, but we’ll keep pushing. We’re always improving our car. (I) Think I’ve got a little bit more luck on my side so we can get a few more strong results.
“We’ll just keep racing hard. I want to say you evaluate the championship after the Pirtek Enduro Cup, so we’ll see how we stack up after that.”
The championship heads to Barbagallo’s Wanneroo Raceway next for the Pirtek Perth SuperNight from May 2-4.